Community and politics around proposed KIng Shivaji’s statue in Arabian sea..

Aarefa Johri has a nice piece on the proposed statue of the warrior King in Mumbai waters:

As the Maharashtra government’s dream to build a Shivaji Memorial in the Arabian Sea off the coast of South Mumbai edges closer to reality, the opposition from fishing communities affected by the project is getting louder.

In 2008, the Congress-led state government first proposed the idea of erecting a 192-metre tall statue of the 17th century warrior king Shivaji in the sea. In October, after eight years of deliberations and obtaining clearances, the government, now led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, announced that the memorial would be built at a cost of Rs 3,600 crore, with help from the Union government.

The project will officially be inaugurated on December 24, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will conduct a bhoomi-pujan (rituals performed before the start of construction by Hindus) on a rocky outcrop in the sea where the memorial will be located.

Modi’s impending visit, however, has triggered sharp protests from Mumbai’s Kolis, the fishing community whose livelihoods will be directly affected by the proposed memorial and the reclamation of the sea that the project will involve. Last week, a group of fishermen’s associations announced that they would hold a series of protests on December 24, on land and in the sea, to urge the government to shift the memorial to another spot.

As part of the protests, at least 5,000 fishing boats plan to sail out with black flags towards the bhoomi-pujan site, while fisherwomen from Mumbai, Raigad, Uran and Panvel will form a human chain with more black flags in South Mumbai. In addition to this, three of Mumbai’s major wholesale fish markets, as well as several retail markets, plan to remain closed on December 24.

This is not the first time that Mumbai’s Kolis have agitated against the proposed Shivaji memorial. In May, 500 fishermen took out a boat rally with black flags in an attempt to draw attention to their concerns about the project.

But this time, the protests are not only about the controversial location of the memorial. For the Koli community, these protests are also about resisting misrepresentation and staking contested claims to the historical legacy of Shivaji.

This interplay of politics and communities is really interesting. How different interest groups form, they oppose each other and finally one groups’s voice is won. The winning group obviously does so as its people either represents the political group in power or somehow manages to come closer to the political group.

 

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